Empty shops reach new high of 11.9%

High streetShop vacancies have surged to a new high of 11.9% as retail failures including Comet and Jessops knock holes in shopping centres.

The percentage of empty UK shops in April worsened from 10.9% in January and was the highest rate since the British Retail Consortium/Springboard survey began in 2011.
High streets have been "vastly outperforming" shopping centres and out-of-town retail parks, boosted by a 5% increase in evening drinkers, diners and clubbers.

The retail sector has been battered by a wave of failures this year, with entertainment retailer HMV and camera chain Jessops both entering administration in January. Electricals retailer Comet slumped into administration in November.
BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: "It's a major concern that the vacancy rate has reached a record high, driven by increases in almost every part of the UK, with some regions like the South West seeing a significant leap in empty shop numbers."

But rising temperatures lifted April footfall 1% on a year earlier, a marked improvement on the 5.2% fall in March, as more shoppers ventured out compared with a rainy April 2012.

Ms Dickinson added: "The unsettled weather at the start of the month seems to have created pent-up demand, which brought many of us out to shop when more spring-like weather finally made an appearance."

High street footfall was up 3.4%, the strongest performance since December 2011, but shopping centre visitors fell 3%.

Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at Springboard, said: "This disparity is partly due to the fact that many of the high-profile retail failures - reflected in the increased vacancy rate - have been located in malls, creating holes in their retail frontages which have adversely affected their attractiveness to shoppers.

"The resilience of high streets is also likely to be a function of their diversity, as they have an offer that spans more than just retail."
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